The Florida State Seminoles (4-1) lost a hard-fought 31-21 contest to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-1) last weekend, but it did not take away from the early season performance of wide receiver Johnny Wilson (6’7 235). The Pacoima, California native and Arizona State transfer had limited productivity for the Sun Devils due to a 2021 hamstring injury.
Wilson’s touches go back-and-forth depending on the team’s game plans from week-to-week. What doesn’t get noticed is the blocking downfield that has been at least adequate through five games. This provides him with possibilities as an F or H-back-type for the next level.
It has not all been perfect.
In some of those cases, Wilson has overrun crack block opportunities versus safeties (see vs. Burns, 3rd QTR, LSU ’22). In addition, the former Sun Devil was unable to corral a potential slant-and-go touchdown grab in the end zone versus the cornerback when LSU safety Jay Ward knocked the ball out of his hand (3rd QTR, LSU ’22).
Those missed chances do not erase the numerous pass interference penalties he has drawn versus quick, fluid cornerbacks (see Clark, Louisville ’22). The stride length (five yards in first three steps) presents different pictures for cornerbacks. Wilson tallied nearly 150 yards in this contest (7 receptions, 149 yards, TD vs. Louisville ’22). He turned around Cardinals safety Kenderick Duncan, Jr. on a post route that led to a 69-yard catch-and-run. His full extension high-point touchdown grab in the fourth quarter versus cornerback Jarvis Brownlee, Jr. was artistic. All three of his touchdowns this season have come in the fourth quarter.
There are still some high-level opponents for him to overcome the rest of the year. NC State’s defense should provide one-on-one opportunities if they commit to stopping FSU’s powerful ground game. Can they shut down the Seminoles three-headed monster of running backs Treshaun Ward, Trey Benson and Lawrance Toafili? The trio has combined for nine rushing touchdowns. Conversely, the Wolfpack defense is allowing a measly 3.4 yards per carry and ranks 15th nationally in rushing defense (as of 10-3-22).
If so, then Wilson’s size and catch radius have to win in isolation on the outside for the Seminoles. Perhaps surprisingly, FSU ranks 35th nationally in passing offense (278 YPG) thus far in 2022. This represents nearly a 77-yard improvement over last season’s final totals. Wilson’s 18.8 yards per reception (19 catches) certainly ranks as a big part of the team’s sudden resurgence through the air.
Tomorrow’s performance could bring more spotlight for the budding star in Tallahassee.
Utah State wide receiver/kickoff returner Savon Scarver’s foot speed and elusiveness have put him on a historic pace. Although he has returned just eight kickoffs in 2019, the Aggie speedster is averaging nearly 43.8 yards per kickoff return. As of press date, he is the all-time leader in career kickoff return average in the Mountain West Conference. He has several attributes that distinguish him in this phase of his game.
Since his insertion into the team’s kickoff return game back in 2017, Scarver has excelled on right returns that feature a double team. During this season (2017), the Aggies would occasionally double team the R4 (fourth man in from the outside-in) on the opposing team’s kickoff coverage unit (with their right tackle and right guard). One of the reasons he is effective on these types of returns surrounds his ability to swerve through traffic. His swivel hips allow him to stay on a north-south trek without losing speed. Many of these returns during that year featured a five-man front (left tackle, left guard, center, right guard and right tackle) on the Aggies kickoff return team (five men on the front line).
On this kickoff return against New Mexico State in the 2017 Arizona Bowl, Scarver’s balance and underrated core strength prevent him from losing speed as he navigates through traffic. Prior to any of that happening, however, it is his underrated ability to catch the ball coming forward that allows him to get on top of the kickoff return unit. Many of the all-time best kickoff returners gain one-to-two steps by creating a lean with their posture as they field the ball.
Scarver’s 101-yard kickoff return against Nevada on October 19, 2019 came out of a 4-2 kickoff return front (six-man front). Normally, many of these fronts feature four of the blockers in the six-man front aligned 10-to-12 yards from the ball. The two centers (right center and left center) normally align approximately 15-to-20 yards from the ball in-between the left guard and right guard. On this return, the Aggies front featured the two centers aligned 10 yards from the kickoff team with its left and right guards aligned in-between the tackles and centers.
This front allows the Aggies left tackle (37 Sam Lockett, 6’0 190, S-FR) and left guard (25 Jarrod Green, 5’11 180, CB-SOPH.) to execute a double team on the fourth man in from the right (Nevada’s L4 in their blocking designation). At that point, Scarver is asked to pop the return going to his left. As opposed to bouncing the return, he squeezed it back vertically off the block of the team’s right wing (47 Logan Lee, 6’4 245, TE-JR.) versus the third man in from the right side (Nevada’s L3). It took just one small swivel from Scarver to elude Nevada’s placekicker in the middle of the field. Once he did, the former Centennial HS (Nev.) prep level track star easily ran away from Nevada’s kickoff coverage unit en route to his 101-yard touchdown. The former 21.5-second 200-meter speedster once set a state record with a 37.8-second time in the 300-meter hurdles. He is not going to be caught once he reaches his top gear.
Areas of improvement
When we first saw Scarver back in 2017, we felt as if he had an opportunity to develop into a top-notch wide receiver prospect as well. While he can break down the cushion of unsuspecting defensive backs, he has not been totally reliable as a pass receiver. He let a quick slant carom off of his shoulder pads against LSU in the fourth quarter after beating Tigers senior cornerback Kristian Fulton off the line of scrimmage. A possession earlier, his speed varied on a post route and then he was unable to wrestle the ball away from LSU safety Grant Delpit.
Of quarterback Jordan Love’s three interceptions versus LSU, two were on targets to Scarver. On the first interception, he beat LSU cornerback Derek Stingley off the line of scrimmage on a fade pattern but Love underthrew the ball and Stingley picked it off. Overall, his physical ability shined on occasion against LSU’s cornerbacks but he wasted too much time at the line of scrimmage. Physical corners can deter his paths.
At this point, he has morphed into an elite return specialist by trade. For him to become a dual-threat in the true sense of the word, Scarver needs to return to his early season form. If so, he could help re-ignite Love’s draft stock over the last month of the season. The two should be on more of the same page in their third season together.
UPDATE: Scarver concluded his career ranked second all-time in Mountain West Conference history with a 28.7 yards per kickoff return average. Of his 80 kickoff returns, six went for touchdowns. In his time on offense, the former Aggie caught 49 passes for 715 yards (14.6 YPR) and four touchdowns.
In a SEC contest featuring several NFL Draft prospects, fundamentals were more of a factor than talent. LSU took advantage of Georgia’s poor special teams play, pass blocking and missed tackles, en route to a 36-16 victory. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his thoughts on a few of the teams’ prospects in this in-game report:
29 Greedy Williams (6’3 184) LSU CB- Sophomore
Williams has the size and elite length that scouts will covet in the NFL Draft. The burning question with players of his size at the cornerback position is their ability to twist their hips and get out of breaks cleanly to mirror receivers. Williams showed no problem with this, see his coverage on Georgia junior wide receiver Riley Ridley (6’2, 200) in the second quarter on 3rd and 9, where he kept up with the receiver stride-for-stride on a comeback route to break up the play. Williams is also a contributor on special teams as he is tasked with blocking the gunners. The LSU cornerback figures to be a top draft pick and probably will not have to contribute on special teams to make an NFL roster but the more you can do, the better. On the season, Williams has two interceptions.
40 Devin White (6’1 240) LSU LB-Junior
White’s aggressiveness and willingness to fly to the football is apparent. So often during Saturday’s game, White could be seen trailing the play to assist a fellow defensive player in finishing it. He finished with a season-high 12 assisted tackles against Georgia. White has the tendency to run himself out of plays and versus play action because of his aggressiveness. However, his ability to tackle, drop in coverage and matchup with tight ends occasionally, will make him a contributor at the next level.
18 Isaac Nauta (6’4 240) Georgia TE-Junior
The tight end position is so much about size in the NFL and Nauta has NFL size. The Georgia tight end showed his athleticism and reflexes when he twisted and contorted his body to catch a back shoulder pass while being blanketed by Devin White. Nauta can also serve as a hand in the ground blocker and is physically mature enough to take on outside linebackers in run blocking schemes. Nauta will have to show scouts that he can match his production with his size. The junior tight end currently has 13 catches for 176 yards and one touchdown this season.
18 Deandre Baker (5’11 185) Georgia CB-Senior
The Miami native may not be as tall as Greedy Williams. but is the same type of blanket cover corner and has just as much length. Baker also has two interceptions on the season. LSU didn’t test him much on the outside because they had far greater success running the ball between the tackles. Baker is consistent as they come at the cornerback position and is near the top of his class at the position.
The Florida Gators poached new head coach, Dan Mullen, from conference foe, Mississippi State, during the offseason. The Gators hope Mullen, who amassed a 69-46 overall record and 33-39 conference record, can bring a level of consistently to Gainesville. Mullen previously served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coached during Florida’s heyday between 2005-2008. The Gators head coach will have to choose between three underclassmen to take the command at quarterback. Sophomores Feleipe Franks (6’5, 227) and Kyle Trask (6’5, 239) will battle freshman Emory Jones (6’2, 192) for the starting role. Whoever is under center, will have junior wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (6’2, 205)to depend on. Cleveland finished last season with 410 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Cleveland should be able to stretch defenses with the deep ball. Defensively, the Gators project to be further ahead of the curve than the offense. The Gators have playmakers at each level on defense. Senior defensive end Cece Jefferson (6’1, 242) has totaled 28.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks over his three years in Gainesville. Jefferson, pictured left, plays with strong leverage and can set the edge. In the middle, junior inside linebacker David Reese leads the defensive huddle and junior defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (6’0, 207) patrols the back end, playing on the outside and in the nickel. Gardner-Johnson has five career interceptions. The Gators aren’t expected to contend for a national championship like they were during Mullen’s first stint at Florida, but defensively look for marked improvement.
Troy’s player to watch
33 David Reese 6’1 248 LB- Junior
After missing the entire 2017 offseason recovering from wrist surgery, Reese came back with a vengeance, leading the Gators in tackles with 102 and finishing second on the team with 10 tackles for loss. The junior linebacker also totaled 1.5 sacks and an interception. The Farmington, Michigan native will be tasked with leading the defense from his middle linebacker position. Reese, a solid tackler, is as dependable as they come in the middle of a defense.
Game of the season
September 29th against Mississippi State
Head coach Dan Mullen will return to Starkville to face his former team during the fifth week of the season. The Bulldogs finished 9-4 last season in Mullen’s ninth and final season as Mississippi State’s head coach. The storylines will be plentiful and the two teams should be evenly matched. The Gators are looking to get back to a bowl game and beating a conference foe will be crucial.
Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson is predicting a 7-5 record and a bowl game appearance for the Florida Gators. Mullen’s crew will fall to some of the upper echeloncompetition in the SEC including LSU, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. The Gators will also fall to in-state rival Florida State but will win enough games to inspire confidence in the new head coach.
What makes this player Nasty….(Strengths): Positive size and measurements. Former high school track star with above average long speed if he can build to it (Tulane ’17). Frequently controls the slot positions for the Mustangs. He’s the team’s move guy with z-in and z-out motion, much like he was during his freshman year at LSU. They’ve even aligned him in an offset RB spot to run trail-seams (SMU ’17). Uses his helmet to move defenders on his straight-stem. Excels running post-corner-post routes from the No. 2 slot position and will beat double teams (UConn ’17-2 TDs, Tulane ’17-TD). As an outside WR (LSU), he would attack the CB’s blind spots and then drop his weight on comebacks (Tabor, Florida ’14). This showed up on occasion at SMU on post-corners from the outside Z-WR position (Tulane ’17). Satisfactory hand-eye coordination. Snatches the ball. He will go low to scoop errant passes off the turf (Florida ’14). Displays little regard for his body attacking the middle of the field (one-hand grab (left) on dig route, Houston ’17). Exhibits body control along the sidelines when running double moves (TCU ’17). The team often put him at the No. 2 weak position in empty to work pivot-returns, quick outs, shallow crossers, digs and post-corners. Works the seams of the field. Deft option route runner (3rd and 3-6). He’s even been used on double passes (TCU ’17). He’s come through for the team in clutch situations with miraculous efforts (4th and 4, 4th QTR, Cincinnati ’17).
Weaknesses: One-year wonder. Got buried on the depth chart at LSU behind ordinary receivers. Why did he leave? Average run after the catch threat with limited wiggle. Will leave passes on the turf. Dropped a shallow crossing route vs. Florida in 2014 with no one around. He also had a drop vs. UConn in 2017. Does not run through the ball on quick drives or slant routes. He was not featured much outside at either LSU or SMU despite having adequate size and speed. May project as a slot-only prospect. While at LSU, he would struggle vs. physical play near the LOS (Florida ’14). CBs can still frustrate him when split outside in press coverage (Lewis, Tulane ’17). Will drift up the field at times on some of his speed cuts on out-breaking routes. Will fall away from punts on occasion when attempting to judge the flight of the ball (Houston ’17).
Attended Barbe HS (La.) and became the national all-time leader in receiving yards (6,566). Set a Louisiana state record for receptions (357)
Was named a USA Today 1st Team All-American
Two-time Class 5A state finalist in the 100-meters (10.93)
Threw a no-hitter in the opening round of the 2008 Little League World Series
2014 (7 sts, LSU): 17 catches for 193 yards (11.3 YPR); One tackle
2015 (2 sts. LSU): 5 receptions for 83 yards
17 receptions for 156 yards and one TD vs. Houston on 10/7/17
17 catches for 186 yards vs. Cincinnati on 10/21/17
2017 (13 sts, 1st Team All-AAC): 114 catches for 1,236 yards (10.8 YPR) and 13 TDs; 1-of-2 passes for 34 yards and one INT; Two tackles
Time to get Nasty….Our Summary: Current Arkansas offensive coordinator and former SMU OC Joe Craddock clearly had a plan for Quinn in 2017. Perhaps he watched his LSU film. While there, Quinn ran a number of possession routes off of stack looks or in motion. Many of them were on third downs as a freshman. The decision to leave LSU is still an unknown, but he took full advantage of playing in SMU’s creative scheme this past year. He’s strong, quick and tough. Additionally, he has positive hand-eye coordination. To become a solid slot option in the NFL, he has to create more of an illusion for the defensive back. Despite good timed speed, he sometimes looks as if he’s playing at one clip on Saturdays. While he stems well to move defensive backs off their marks, he is not as decisive the more physical man coverage enters the equation. The former Mustang brings Day 3 value to the 2018 NFL Draft.
What makes this player NASTY….(Strengths): Athletic bloodlines. High basketball IQ. Floor speed. Ball-handling. Pushes the basketball end-to-end. On-court vision. Excellent passer. Creates easy transition opportunities for teammates. Makes deft overhead passes to cutters going to the basket. Able to find cutters with dime chest passes in half-court sets (Florida ’16). Sets up the screener when the team runs its two-man game at the top of the key. Excellent rebounder on both ends of the floor. Times offensive rebounds and puts it back on the floor straight off the bounce. Led the NCAA in double-doubles as a freshman. Lengthy arms correct plenty of his mistakes on defensive end of the floor. He will be able to operate versus guards on the switch as he moves up to the NBA (vs. Ulis, Kentucky ’16). He’s shown enough physicality to use his standing reach and will absorb the contact vs. low post scoring threats near the block (Lee, Kentucky ’16). When backing down defenders on the right block, he’ll use subtle pump fakes to get them off their feet (Poythress, Kentucky ’15); and he has soft touch on his fallaway jumper from 8-to-10 feet facing the basket. When backing down opponents, he uses his right elbow to propel himself off of one leg going left and will hang in the air with the floater facing the rim. Pivots and spins against pressure with an ease of movement that belies his age. Uses his off-hand (right) well to finish at the hoop. Left-handed dribbler who can finish in the paint versus the trees. Hand-eye coordination is solid when catching alley-oops from mid-court or even just inside the half-court line. As he attacks defenders moving forward he will use crossover (COD) dribbles to move them off their spots. Did a fine job of attacking Marquette’s Henry Ellenson off the dribble and then used his running right-handed floater over the top of him. Contains the ability to split double teams and can finish at the cup (South Alabama ’15).
Weaknesses: Does not shoot the basketball well from depth. Can he extend an NBA defense? Teams gave him an opportunity all season long to show that he could hit the open three-pointer and he turned it down (Marquette ’15). Passivity displayed itself at times in the Oklahoma game when he would defer quite a bit until a run late in the game. Didn’t put the nail in the coffin when the team had a big second half lead. Reluctant three-point shooter (attempted three 3-point shots all season). Took repetitions off on the defensive end in school. Fails to slide his feet consistently with knee bend (Kentucky ’16). Six games with six or more turnovers. Fouled out of four games as a freshman and had four or more fouls in 12 games. Disappeared for games on the offensive end (NC State ’15, Texas A&M ’16).
Dad, Dave, played professional basketball in Europe and Australia and wore the same number as Ben (No. 25)
Simmons played the forward position in Rugby while growing up
Went on to attend Montverde Academy (Fla.) and won three national championships while there
Godfather, David Patrick, was an assistant coach at LSU
Brother, Liam, is an assistant coach at Southwest Baptist College (Mo.)
43 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocked shots and 5 steals vs. North Florida on 12/2/15
21 points (9-of-11 FT), 20 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 3 TOs vs. Marquette in 2015
36 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists vs. Vanderbilt on 1/2/16
22 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals vs. Missouri on 3/1/16
22 double-doubles in 2015-16 to lead the nation
2015-16 (USA Today National Freshman of the Year, 1st Team All-SEC, Sporting News National Freshman of the Year, SEC Freshman of the Year): 34.9 MPG, 19.2 PPG, 56% FG, 33.3% 3-PT, 67% FT, 11.8 RPG, 4.8 APG, 2 SPG, 3.4 TPG
Time to get NASTY….(Our Summary): He could become the first number one overall pick to not play in the NCAA Tournament since Mychal Thompson (1978-Portland Trail Blazers). With that said, the competitiveness factor should not be considered because the team didn’t make the tournament or due to his decision not to workout at the NBA combine. The most concerning part of his game may be between the ears. Simmons has not been shy about telling his team that: 1) he wouldn’t play in the NIT, and 2) that he wasn’t available to workout for certain NBA teams. For a player who didn’t always assert himself during school, there are questions left for NBA teams regardless of his unique combination of ball-handling, court vision and rebounding skill.